Why did George North stay on the pitch?
7 February 2015
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I have gone on record in a previous blog article (Rugby’s Biggest Challenge) that concussion injuries are the biggest threat to the growth of the game of rugby. Ours is a collision sport and head injuries will happen, but it is how we deal with them that will determine if parents without a background in the game will allow their sons and daughters to participate in rugby.
The RFU are spending time and resources through the Headcase campaign in educating players, coaches, referees and parents to recognise signs of concussion and have put in place protocols to make sure players, especially youth players, that have taken a knock to head have a proper amount of rest before being allowed to play again. Anecdotally these precautions have been well received and followed in rugby clubs around the country and in rugby playing schools too, although there have been some worrying stories of schools coaches ignoring protocols to chase a cup win. Thankfully these are rare.
But it is at the professional level where these protocols must be strictly adhered to. These games are the showcase of the sport and none more so than the Six Nations which is watched by more people of all ages that any other rugby competition in the UK. What we see happening on our screens on Six Nations weekends is what our youth players will try to emulate on a Sunday morning at their clubs.
George North looked as though he lost consciousness after colliding with Mike Brown but somehow he was allowed to finish the game despite having already received a previous blow to the head. North is a very high profile player who many youngsters look up to as a role model, but he and the medical team (and the broadcasters) have to understand that there is far more ay stake than winning a game when they decide to play on in these circumstances.
I welcome World Rugby’s intervention to investigate if the correct protocols were followed on Friday night and if they were, then the protocols must be amended. The rugby viewing public and rugby players young and old have to understand how dangerous it is continue playing after a blow to the head; dangerous not just for players but for the future of the game.